Algae bloom slows fishing down
  |  First Published: March 2008

There has been a lot of talk about the algal bloom across the Gippsland Lakes, and hundreds of anglers have been put off by the unsightly bright green waters. All of the lakes system is affected, including Lake King, Lake Victoria and, to a lesser extent, Lake Wellington. The bloom is also now in Lake Tyers

The Department of Sustainability and Environment is working with the Environment Protection Authority to keep an eye on the situation, with plenty of signs around the lakes advising the public about the necessary precautions. The Department of Human Services has said that contact with the water should be avoided, particularly in areas where scum and discoloured waters are obvious.


Blue-green algae outbreaks have been very common over the last 45 years during summer and autumn. The fish have so far been unaffected by the water conditions, and it’s hoped that there will be very little impact on the fish population. When the blooms die off as winter nears, the decomposition of the algae can consume the oxygen in the water to the point where fish may suffocate. This has generally not happened in the past, and is not expected to this time either. Algal blooms have been recorded in the Gippsland Lakes in 1965, 1971, 1974, 1987-88, 1995-96, 1996-97, 1999, 2001 and 2002. As you can see this is not an isolated instance, but it does appear that these outbreaks have increased appreciably since the mid 1990’s.

Contact with affected water

All blue-green algae contain certain compounds that can irritate the skin, and some people are more sensitive than others. If contact is made with badly affected waters you should wash yourself thoroughly with clean water and remove any affected clothing. If you experience any health effects following recreational use of the lakes, seek medical advice. It is not known how long the bloom will remain, but once testing of the lake waters proves that things have cleared, the message will be made public. The latest update on the algal bloom suggests that the event will actually be of great benefit to the food chain, and that juvenile fish (including bream) feed on the growth.

Environmental Studies

In further developments, according to the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority, a project is underway to evaluate what lies ahead in regard to the health of the Gippsland Lakes. Crucial freshwater inflows affect the wellbeing of all the lakes, wetlands and estuarine waters within this huge system. At the moment about 20% of freshwater is diverted from the lakes for irrigation and drinking water, and these rivers will probably be further dammed in the future. Climate change might see even more reductions in flow. Recent estimates say that within 20 years a further loss of about 30% of current average freshwater inflows could be a reality. Monitoring the nutrient levels within the waters entering the lakes will no doubt also be high on the agenda.

Still the fish are biting

Despite the sad condition of the bright green waters, the fish continue to bite and luderick are turning up in surprising places. At Hollands Landing, a lot of luderick to 35cm and a few small bream are taking live shrimp right at the jetty. I recently spent five hours casting lures in the murky water but failed to turn a fish.

A group of anglers had a look at Toms Creek and returned a handful of undersized bream. Better reports are coming from up in the Nicholson River, where a few bigger bream have been landed on frozen prawn and live shrimp.

The upper reaches of the Mitchell River have also turned up some nice bream, and the odd luderick as well. In the lower Mitchell around Eagle Point, plenty of bream to 36cm are biting on prawn and fresh crab. I’ve not heard much from the Tambo, but it should really start to fire soon as the flathead start heading way up into that river for the autumn run. So, my fishing report is a little lean this month but I’m sure that will all change as the days shorten as we head into autumn.

River flows

The one nice positive is that good flows in most of the rivers have been maintained for many months now. Good clean fresh water has been a welcome sight and will breathe a lot of life into the estuary waters, hopefully right through until the start of winter. The only waters still running fairly dirty are those of the Latrobe and Thomson system.

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